As City release details of their new sponsor, Matthew McGregor gives his views on what this means for the club.....
We knew it was coming, so we had time to get ready for that nasty taste in the mouth. Hints and leaks over the past few days meant we had time to reconcile ourselves to the news.
The club has a new primary sponsor in BK8, and somehow, inexplicably, they’re more gross than Dafabet.
Of course, the Emi news has been officially confirmed today too. That news is sad and worrying – but it is news which is part and parcel of being a self-funded club owned by people who have the best interests of our club, our city, and our game at heart.
The club, with our owners and management team, have got so, so much right over recent years. But the unveiling of BK8 as our primary sponsor cuts against all of that.
First, let’s get the betting out of the way. To be sponsored by a gambling firm is not good for a community club. Betting is legal, and most people enjoy a flutter from time to time, me included. But for many, betting is an addiction that destroys their life. According to campaigners, around 65 per cent of the profits made by gambling firms come from problem gamblers. According to Matt Zarb-Cousin, a campaigner against the abuses of the gambling industry, gambling firms advertise so heavily in sport for a simple reason: they have a high turnover of customers. As some go skint, they need to be replaced by others to keep the money flowing.
I don’t want Norwich City to be part of this industry. Others will disagree, and say that we can’t refuse to take the money when other clubs are. It’s true that the best thing would be for the government to ban gambling sponsorship on shirts from all teams, and create a level playing field, without betting money available for anyone.
I expected to be upset at the club doing a deal with a betting firm. But I didn’t expect the club to do a deal with a betting firm that engages in sexualised advertising, with their now hastily deleted instagram page packed out with photos of scantily dressed women with the BK8 logo on. Some even wearing handcuffs.
Our club has a clear equality statement. “We highly value the diversity of our football community and are committed to ensuring that we embed a highly inclusive culture across the Club, together with an accessible and welcoming environment.” The statement goes on to explain how it will be more than words, and emphasises, “It will be a condition of working with the Club that suppliers act in accordance with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Policy.”
One glance – and it really only needed a glance – at BK8’s instagram page would have told anyone doing the due diligence that this is a firm that doesn’t view women in the way the club says it does.
The Canaries Trust recently carried out an important survey which revealed the appalling extent of sexism within football. While saying that it’s not as bad as in the past, one-in-five women Norwich fans said they’d experienced some form of sexism at games and reported that “sexist banter” remained part and parcel of going to watch football.
Sarah Greaves, women’s football ambassador at the Canaries Trust, said: “It is clear sexism still exists and any banter which causes offence should not be tolerated.” That’s totally right. By failing to verify that BK8 agreed with that statement, and the club’s equality statement, fans who want Carrow Road to be welcoming to everyone have been let down.
We get it. We are a self-funded club. We have to take the downs with the ups of that. It means selling on Maddison, Lewis, Godfrey and now Emi. It means we compete for a toe-hold in the Premier League, not a spot in the Champions League. We don’t have a perfect club, and being a Norwich fan isn’t smooth sailing. What we do have is our values. We don’t have the right to expect that the club won’t sell its best assets. But we should be able to expect they won’t sell our values out at the same time.